With the launch of a special AMG edition, the new Mercedes EQS sedan takes on an entirely different personality, the big sedan getting significant improvements in performance and handling.
That is, of course, the tuner brand’s mission, but the AMG EQS marks the first time it has worked its magic on a relatively mainstream Mercedes battery-electric vehicle. It won’t be the last. As officials now confirm, AMG sees battery power as central to its future, with an assortment of plug-in hybrids and BEVs to start rolling out over the next few years.
“Our battery-electric (product) range will be growing very soon,” Philipp Schiemer, the CEO of the AMG brand, said during a media drive of the AMG EQS. And, in subsequent conversations with TheDetroitBureau.com, he gave a clearer picture of what’s coming, including a high-performance sports car riding on a unique-to-AMG skateboard-style platform.
A first attempt
AMG isn’t entirely new to electrification. In 2012, it surprised the industry by rolling out a concept version of its SLS supercar — which itself was the first retail model ever designed exclusively for the AMG brand. Renamed the Mercedes-Benz AMG Electric Drive, a handful of production versions were built during the following two years.
Rather than the 6.2-liter V-8 making up to 622 horsepower and 468 pound-feet of torque in the SLS Black Series, the Electric Drive delivered a peak 740 hp and 738 lb-ft. It could hit 60 in 3.8 seconds. Unfortunately, its modest, 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack was only good for a maximum 120 miles range.
Using twin motors — one on each axle — the new AMG EQS makes as much as 761 hp and 752 lb-ft — propelling it to 60 in 3.4 seconds. And, thanks to significant improvements in battery technology, it will yield as much as 277 miles per charge, according to the EPA.
The AMG EQS underscores the potential advantages battery drive can deliver to the performance sector. Electric motors can deliver ungodly amounts of tire-spinning torque, usually hitting max output the moment they start spinning. And while today’s batteries are heavy, mounting them — along with motors — below the load floor actually yields a lower center of gravity than a vehicle running on a conventional, internal combustion engine.
Dialing up regen — where a BEV’s dual-mode brakes regenerate energy normally lost while braking or coasting — also permits “One-Pedal” driving. A driver simply lifts off the throttle to aggressively slow down, almost like downshifting a manual transmission several gears. It allows for a more nuanced use of power in corners, among other things.
These are reasons why virtually every high-performance brand — including the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin — is migrating to electric propulsion, at least in some form.
In AMG’s case, the near term will see it adopt a mix of powertrain technologies. Its E Performance hybrids borrow from Formula One technology. They also recapture energy to help boost power when it’s needed most. That can come by delivering it directly to the drivetrain through a rear-mounted motor, or by using current to spin up turbochargers faster than could happen using exhaust gases.
The AMG GT73 can deliver as much as 804 hp — with an electrified boost of 84 hp — and 738 lb-ft of torque.
But that’s just the beginning. A plug-in hybrid version will soon follow. Schiemer declined to discuss tech specs, but he confirmed that this version of the GT will make use of new “axial flux” motors. Developed by British firm Yasa — which Mercedes acquired earlier this year — they claim to offer significantly higher power in a much smaller, lighter package than traditional electric motors.
A unique BEV platform
The next step will come with the launch, around mid-decade, of an entirely new, skateboard-style architecture that will be used exclusively for AMG offerings. Schiemer said he’s not ready to discuss specifics but it appears that there will be multiple products built off the platform, and an all-electric alternative to the GT line is clearly in the development stage already, insiders hinted.
Mercedes, on the whole, is migrating to what is expected to be an all-electric future. Since Ola Källenius took over as CEO it has expanded the range of battery-powered models it is working on, both for mainstream buyers and those looking for the maximum in performance.
For his part, Schiemer indicated AMG is heading for the day when it will be all electric, though the timing is far from certain.
Overcoming the remaining drawbacks
There clearly are drawbacks, he acknowledged during a conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com. Today’s batteries are better than what was available when the SLS Electric Drive was offered. But they still don’t offer enough range, especially for those who plan to take their AMG models out on the track. But, with it looking more and more like next-generation solid-state batteries will be available during the second half of the decade, that could be the proverbial game changer.
Of course, there’s one other shortfall: the lack of the guttural V-8 roar that traditional AMG fans love. The automaker has introduced several “soundscapes” into the AMG EQS, digitally simulated sounds that give a driver an aural sense of how the car is performing. Whether buyers will accept that as a substitute for an IC engine’s natural sound remains to be seen, however.
But the incredible performance electric motors can deliver should be an acceptable consolation — or so AMG is hoping, as it prepares to embark on the most radical transitions in the brand’s history.